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Sunday, October 24, 2010

I’ve never done a blog before. I know I’m supposed to talk about my scripts and romance, but I think I’m going to deviate. So much is going on in my life right now that I’m compelled express my feelings. I have been to five funerals since July, all of them family and friends but the one I have yet to face will be the hardest.

My brother was diagnosed six years ago with lung cancer. I remember it clearly. We were at his daughter’s wedding and he went home early because he didn’t feel well. We stayed at the festivities and had a grand time, never once thinking about his illness as anything more than an overindulgence of spirits. The next day he seemed fine, joking around with Larry and me, his siblings, teasing the grandkids, and later watching the video of Amy’s vows. We went home with beautiful memories and the promise to make more.

A month later that image was shattered. Not feeling well, Dennis went to the Dr.’s. They took an X-ray of his lungs, saw a dark spot, and presumed it was pneumonia. Two weeks of antibiotics and he still felt bad so a cat scan with contrast was performed. A huge spot the size of a softball appeared. Amy, a radiologist, fought tears as she looked at it.

The Dr. refused to give a conclusive diagnosis until a biopsy was performed. Larry and I attended. Our younger brother, Bob, couldn’t make it so we kept him in the loop. Sure enough it was cancer, the most aggressive kind there was: small-cell . . . yet it responded the best to treatment. Since the tumor was wrapped around his pulmonary artery, surgery was out of the question. In fact, the Dr. went on to say, they didn’t operate on small-cell cancer. That’s how deadly it is. They gave Dennis a month and a half to nine months to live.

He started chemo and radiation treatments with a very good attitude. If he was afraid, he didn’t show it. Dennis met the battle head-on.

I don’t know how to explain it other than I felt positive things were going to turn out. Something told me Dennis was not going to die.

A couple of months into treatment my best friend’s daughter had a dream. “Your brother is going to live, Aunt Marianne,” she told me (we always called each other Aunt, Uncle, or cousin even though we weren’t by blood). “I had a dream. The tumor in his lung got smaller and smaller until it fell off.”

As she told me this I again felt reassured all would be well.

Approximately two months later a friend of my brother’s had a dream, one where the tumor shrank until it vanished. Life really is more unbelievable than books. I mean . . . the same dream? By two different people? And people think we writers have such great imaginations! They’ll read the book thinking it never happened when it did. LOL!

Dennis had a body scan five months after hearing the same dream for the second time and the cancer was gone. My feeling was validated and we rejoiced.

The key to overcoming cancer once it has been found is to have check-ups. Sure they can be an inconvenience, but they save lives. My sister-in-law’s mother lived with cancer for thirty years that way. We were hoping for the same.

All the periodic visits and body scans showed Dennis to be cancer free. Four years passed before the cancer returned . . . in the same lung, this time in four lesions instead of one, the curse of small-cell. It comes back in multiples.

Chemo was ordered except this time they couldn’t radiate his brain. Small-cell cancer is notorious for traveling from whatever spot it first shows up in and to the brain. None was there, for which I was thankful. As before, I knew all would be well . . . and it was. The four spots shrank until they were gone.

The doctors were amazed. To beat such odds once was unimaginable. To do so a second time was phenomenal. Everyone knew who to thank for these ‘miracles’.

Two years passed cancer free. Dennis’ and my birthday’s fall in April two years apart, his on the 7th, mine on the 13th and a Friday to boot! As children we celebrated together. As adults we called, never forgetting the fun times we had growing up. Dennis acted weird when I called this year. My brother Larry asked if I knew anything about it. I presented stress as a possibility. Things never stay the same no matter who you are and what you faced . . . and chemo does something to a person. It changes them, on small levels.

Three weeks later we got the news. The small-cell cancer had returned - ten spots in his brain. Treatment began, as my brother insisted, but I know it will not work. I do not have that sense of security like I did before. My heart tells me to make the best of what time I have left. I had six extra years to enjoy Dennis’ company. Now it was time to say good-bye.

That’s pretty much what’s been happening. The three tumors on the front of his brain have fused into one big mass, taking his ability to function normally; the other seven located though out his brain are growing as well. My summer has been spent trying to create memories to sustain me for the time when Dennis becomes just that . . . a memory.

Am I angry? No. I am grateful for those six years. Am I sad? Yes. Who wouldn’t be? He is my brother, a part of my life. We fought, yes, but we also stood up for one another. No one would date me when they learned who my older brother was! Love was the biggest part of our relationship as a family. I never realized how much I had it in my life until I grew up and met people who didn’t.

And so - I want to thank you, Dennis, for walking with me in life as my brother. For the good times and the bad, for marrying Valorie and giving me another sister (Joanne was the first when she married Larry, the eldest), for my nephew, Eric, and my three nieces, Lisa, Becky, and Amy. I want to thank you for the three great nephews and four great nieces born since, even the one on the way - so many beautiful memories in each and every one of them! But most of all, Dennis, I want to thank you for being you. I love you and always will.


  1. OH, Marianne... so hard for you now, but so amazing. My dad died from lung cancer and it's a terrible disease. You really were blessed to have him six amazing years after his first diagnosis. (((hugs)))

  2. Marianne:

    I never had a brother to lose (only child), but I lost both my parents within 2 months of each other and that was tough. You have to give yourself time and space to grieve and then you have to give yourself permission to go on.

    You can take him with you on your journey. Pull out the happy memories from time to time and re-live them. And once in a while, have a mental chat with your brother.

    You can keep the best of him with you and you might be surprised how much comfort, support and guidance you can get through your "visits."

    The ones we love only leave us if we let them go.

  3. Thank you so much for your comforting thoughts. You're right Mary Anne . . . we never lose the ones ones we love unless we let them go.

    How ironic your last name should be Graham. That was mine until 1976 . . . Marianne Graham. I worked at a supermarket chain in Michigan called Chatams at the time and when people teased me about my last name I would hold up a package of Keebler Deluxe Grahams and say: "That's me!"

  4. Oh how my heart goes out to you! I lost both my parents 2 weeks apart in 2006 and it was so very traumatic, I was forever changed. All I wanted to do after it was over was to talk about it; I never knew such pain before and talking about it was the only quick relief I got. It was like constantly having to get a huge burden off my chest. I only have one brother, and I cannot even go mentally where you are going in reality. Take care of yourself-big hugs!

  5. Wow...your family has been through so much. Your brother has shown such courage. What a wonderful tribute you've written to him. Enjoy your time with him and create those lasing memories.

  6. I lost my dad to the same cancer about thirteen years ago. It went very quickly as they had very little treatment they could do since it was in the brain. I am thankful you've had so much time with your brother.

  7. awww that is sad :( Sorry for youe lost but at least you got extra time with him

  8. So sad about your brother. I lost both of my older brothers at young ages, relatively was 54 and the other 61. I didn't have enough time with either of them or my parents either. They are gone now too and have been for many years. Be grateful for the extra years you gained with him. Those memories made are very precious.

    kkhaas at bellsouth dot net


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